Rabbi Milevsky's Thought of the Week: Va'Eschanan - 5776
One of the most fundamental prayers and declarations of faith appears towards the end of Pareshat Vaetchanan, namely the Shema. When we utter these few verses, we proclaim our faith in the one Hashem and affirm our love towards Him. In the following section, the Torah warns us not to forget Hashem after enjoying the wonderful gifts of Eretz Yisrael, and not to succumb to spiritual complacency due to the blessings of the land. One might ask why this warning appears immediately following the Shema.
The Rambam provides for us a path to achieve true love of Hashem. He notes that if a person ponders the wisdom in creation and the incredible creatures of Hashem, and appreciates their sophistication, he will immediately love, praise and glorify Him. Consequently, the thinking person will develop a deep desire to know Hashem. Thus, the Shema, and the idea of loving Hashem, encourages us to study the natural world and appreciate it. When I pick up my cup of coffee in the morning and meditate about the magnificence of the product, I develop a love of Hashem.
However, too much involvement in the gifts of nature may lead a person astray. When pursuit of pleasure and sensual self-indulgence becomes my goal in life, my spiritual journey is in trouble. Thus, after the section that guides us to love Him through nature, the Torah warns us not to get carried away. "Be careful that you do not forget Hashem, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery".